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Common triggers of anxiety for loved ones with Alzheimer’s Dementia

by Katie Riggs on October 20, 2014

When a loved one begins to experience the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they may become increasingly agitated. This can be frustrating for both the person with dementia and their caregivers. It is important to understand the triggers of this anxiety and what you, as a family member or caregiver, can do to ease the person’s agitation.

Common causes of anxiety for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia

  • Moving to a new residence or nursing home
  • Any change in routine
  • Changes in caregiver arrangements
  • Perceived (but not always actual) threats
  • Physical ailments including dehydration, poor nutrition, bladder infection or chronic disease such as diabetes

If your loved one exhibits any of the following behaviors, they may be experiencing the agitation associated with their dementia.

These aggressive behaviors may include:

  • Yelling, hitting or biting
  • Pacing or searching
  • Demands for attention
  • Irritability or frustration

What you can do to help

  • Create a calm environment free of loud noises. Also be sure the temperature is set for their optimal comfort and that the rooms are well lit.
  • Try to keep change to a minimum by creating a stable living environment.
  • Create consistency with caregivers, be it family, friends, or in-home caregivers.
  • Create consistency and simplicity with the daily routine such as routine meal times, wake and sleep times.
  • Encourage activities that allow for regular exercise such as walking, yoga, light weights, water aerobics or dancing if the person is physically able.
  • Monitor personal health and hygiene including regular visits with a physician who specializes in the care of patients with dementia, checking for hunger, thirst, constipation and proper nutrition.

How you can respond to aggressive behavior or anxiety in your loved one

  • Listen to their frustrations because this may help you alleviate their source of agitation.
  • Provide reassurance that they are in a safe environment.
  • Maintain a calm and supportive demeanor. Loud, aggressive commands may increase your loved one’s anxiety level.
  • Join a support group with other caregivers who can share their common experiences and concerns.  Your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter may be a good first step.